You heard it here first!
The deal has not been formally announced by the team yet, but lobpasstoabercrombie.com understands The New Zealand Breakers are set to sign former Belmont University star Kerron Johnson as their new import point guard.
Kerron Johnson is perhaps most famous for his game winning shot over the Murray State Racers which helped the Bruins clinch a berth (a program-best 11th seed in the West) in this year’s NCAA March Madness tournament. Interestingly Johnson had turned down an offer from Murray State four years prior to play for Belmont. The Bruins were knocked out in the first round of the NCAA tournament this year by Arizona, despite Johnson’s 22 point haul in the round 1 game. During his time with Belmont, Johnson led the Bruins to 102 wins, four regular season championships and three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
The 22 year old senior will play his first professional basketball in Auckland, New Zealand for the Breakers replacing reining MVP and all round national hero, Cedric Jackson. These will be big boots to fill for the 6″1 point guard, and not just because Jackson was a full 3 inches taller than him.
In many ways Johnson’s game appear similar to that of Jackson, he’s a drive-and-dish style point guard, who can both score the ball (averaging 14.3ppg in his senior year) and find his team mates (4.8 assists per game in 2013). Johnson’s game utilises his speed and quickness (yes, they are 2 different things) to beat his defenders and get to the rim or the free throw line. He also averaged 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals in his final year in College which saw the Bruins finish with a conference-best 26-6 record. Johnson is not known for his three point shooting, but this isn’t a skill the Breakers are desperate for, as he will be surrounded by shooters at the Breakers. Like Jackson, Johnson will serve as a distributor and ball handler, however he may find some defensive match ups with the larger point guards in the league a good challenge as he steps into his professional career.
Kerron Johnson’s team-mate and back court partner at Belmont, Ian Clark (also a senior) was picked up by the Utah Jazz after an impressive Summer League outing for the NBA team, in which he won the 2013 NBA Summer League MVP (Las Vegas). Both he and Johnson went undrafted in the 2013 NBA draft. Clark was only rated 2 spots higher than Johnson in the 2013 DraftExpress Top NCAA Seniors rankings, which is a promising sign.
Johnson was named to this year’s Ohio Valley Conference all-tournament team as well as being named the conference’s MVP – both honours he also received the previous year when the Belmont Bruins were part of the Atlantic Sun conference. In fact he was named in the all-conference team every year he was in college.
Kerron Johnson along with Ian Clark led the Bruins in the Win Share column, which long-time readers of this blog will know that I love. Johnson is more renown for his offensive skills than his defence, and this is reflected by the fact that about 63% of his total win share is contributed from OWS. Perhaps the most important stat that stands out to me though is his assist rate of 29.2%. This means that around 1/3 of every possession he had ended him finding his team mate for a scoring opportunity – a highly valued skill for a point guard.
Johnson’s turnover rate wasn’t great at about 20%, which is something that may need to work on as he finds his way through the NBL season.
Kerron’s greatest strength however appears to be his ability to take contact and get to the free throw line. He averaged almost 7 free throws per game his season and knocked down about 78% of them. He got to the line 210 times last season giving him the 21st best free throw rate in the entire country (73.57). He said in an interview with ASAP Sports earlier this year “my role is to take the hits and control the tempo” and he seems to have that down to a fine art.
All in all a solid signing from the New Zealand Breakers coaching team, and one that will no doubt keep Breakers fans entertained. Many of you will have read about the Wildcats new signing yesterday of James Ennis, with many Cats fans already proclaiming him to be the MVP of the NBL for this coming season. I’m always cautious of laying these kinds of expectations on players straight out of the college system, as playing against hardened professionals, such as those they’ll come up against in the NBL is a lot different to playing against teenagers. There will be a number of players fresh out of the US college system in the NBL this season, and it will be exciting to see how these players develop their professional careers.